Freedman’s Bank Renaming

Inspired by the Freedman’s Bank story in John Hope Bryant’s best-seller, “How the Poor Can Save Capitalism”, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced a renaming of the Treasury Annex Building, which was the original location of Freedman’s Bank, in its honor.

On January 7, 2016 political, business, and social leaders from around the nation gathered in Washington, D.C. for a ceremony to rename the building – the Freedman’s Bank Building.  Throughout 2016, Operation HOPE will host a series of events to share the story of the Freedman’s Bank and to commemorate its historical significance.

Operation HOPE continues the unfinished mission of the Bank helping everyone prosper in the free enterprise system.

The significance of this move cannot be overstated.  The renaming of this ideally located and important Treasury building is truly historic; Operation HOPE is proud to have played a significant role in making this happen. Following the ceremony, Secretary Lew joined John Hope Bryant, executives, select civil rights leaders and policy makers for a meeting at U.S. Treasury around a financial inclusion policy for the nation.

The History of Freedman’s Bank

A Congregational Minister, John W. Alvord, and an abolitionist, A. M. Sperry, launched the Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Company in 1864.  They recognized that the mismanagement of small banks prevented many of the freedmen from recovering the deposits they made during the Civil War.  Alvord and Sperry believed that bringing all of the freedmen’s deposits under the control of a single large banking institution would better protect and manage the money of the newly freed Americans.

In 1865, shortly before his assassination, President Abraham Lincoln recognized the need to aid newly freed slaves in their transition to freedom.  On March 3, 1865 Lincoln and the US Congress signed a bill into law that incorporated the Freedman’s Savings and Trust as the Freedman’s Bank with the mission to assist newly freed slaves with the management of their deposits and to teach them about money.

Deposits were received only “by or on behalf of persons heretofore held in slavery in the United States, or their descendants.”   The Freedman’s Bank had over $57 million in deposits and 70,000 depositors.  The deposits received up to 7% interest, and all unclaimed deposits and accounts were placed in a charitable fund that was used to provide financial literacy education to the children of ex-slaves.

At its peak, Freedman’s Bank became one of the first multi-state banks in the country.  It operated 37 branches in seventeen states and the District of Columbia.By 1870 most of the branches were managed and operated by African Americans.  In addition to helping individuals, the Freedman’s Bank enabled community organizations to prosper and expand.

In 1874, the Bank relocated to Washington, D.C. and selected Frederick Douglass as Trustee and leader of the institution.   After seeing the building for the first time, Frederick Douglass wrote, “The whole thing was beautiful. I had read of this bank when I lived in Rochester, and had indeed been solicited to become one of its trustees, and had reluctantly consented to do so: but when I came to Washington and saw its magnificent brown stone front, its towering height, its perfect appointments, and the fine display it made in the transaction of its business, I felt like the Queen of Sheba when she saw the riches of Solomon, that ‘half had not been told me’.”

The bank represented a foundation for new beginnings and opportunities for African-Americans to thrive economically, socially and politically.  Unaware that the bank was failing, Douglass assumed his role and attempted to stabilize the institution by investing his personal funds.  When the Bank failed, individuals and institutions lost more than $3M in savings. The building was purchased in 1882 by the federal government and demolished in 1899.


2016 Renaming Ceremony and Tour

The January 7, 2016 renaming of the Treasury Annex building across from the White House launched a series of events focused on financial literacy and the continuation of the Freedman Bank’s unfinished mission of helping everyone prosper in the free enterprise system. This marks the 150th anniversary of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (Freedman’s Bank). The building stands on the site of the original bank that was created to help newly emancipated Americans integrate into the nation’s economy.

Renaming ceremony details:

Location: Washington, D.C.
Link: Treasury to Name Freedman’s Bank Building

150th Anniversary of Freedman’s Bank

Operation HOPE Forums and the Afro-American History Society of the National Archives (AAHS)  celebrated a forgotten and invaluable part of America’s history – the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Freedman’s Bank.

The event at the National Archives began a year long, nationwide tour to complete the bank’s unfinished mission of helping everyone prosper in the free enterprise system. Established on March 3, 1865 by President Lincoln, the bank was a landmark institution designed to teach former slaves about money.

Sponsorship Opportunities

In honor of the renaming of the building, a national tour highlighting the history and importance of the Freedman’s Bank is currently being hosted by Operation HOPE. Sponsorships for the 2016 Freedman’s Bank Tour are available. Sponsors demonstrate a commitment to the community, further civic and cultural engagement around a unique part of history, and affiliate your with the best-in-class provider of financial literacy empowerment.

For sponsorship opportunities, CLICK HERE

Recognizing the historic importance of Freedman’s Bank, the following organizations sponsored the Anniversary Tour.  We are grateful to them for keeping history alive.



Operation HOPE, Inc.

The mission of Operation HOPE, Inc. (HOPE) is silver rights empowerment, making free enterprise work for everyone. For 22 years, Operation HOPE has worked to teach the “language of money” to our most disenfranchised citizens. HOPE has served more than 2 million individuals; directed more than $1.5 billion in private capital to America’s low-wealth communities; utilized over 20,000 HOPE Corps volunteers, and currently serves more than 400 cities worldwide. We measure our impact through the Gallup-HOPE Index, a historic 100-year partnership with Gallup. We accomplish this through our work on the ground as the nonprofit private banker for the working poor, the underserved and struggling middle class. We achieve our mission by being the best-in-class provider of financial literacy empowerment for youth, financial capability for communities, and ultimately, financial dignity for all.

Operation HOPE will continue to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Freedman’s Bank over the coming year, with the mission of completing the work of President Lincoln.

To learn more about the work of Operation HOPE visit

Join the conversation - #Freedmans150

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